|Posted on January 10, 2015 at 8:00 PM|
Just for a moment imagine what it would be like if you took four of the world’s most exceptionally talented musicians with a combined total of 138 years of experience, put them together in a band environment and asked them to record an album. What do you think it might sound like? The answer might very well be the latest creation from Frontiers Records called Rated X. This mind blowing collaboration brings together some of rock music’s most decorated veterans with drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge/Rod Stewart/Blue Murder), bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm/Paul Rodgers/Quiet Riot) and guitar virtuoso Karl Cochran (Voodooland/Far Cry) joined by vocal legend Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow/Yngwie Malmsteen/Deep Purple). I simply cannot believe all of this talent together on the one record so I picked up the phone and called JLT for a quick chat about this new and exciting project, the new self titled album and the declining state of the music industry. It was an interesting discussion indeed.
Rock Man: Congratulations on the release of the debut self titled Rated X album. This record sees the coming together of some very big hitters in the hard rock/metal world: names like Karl Cochran, Carmine Appice, Tony Franklin and yourself, of course. How does this band compare to some of the other talented groups you have been involved with over the years?
Joe Lynn Turner: Look comparisons are difficult in the artistic realm in my opinion, but I will tell you one thing the egos are under control and that is something [laughs]. You know, when you play in major bands with major people you always have a difficult time with egos but with this one everyone is pretty much tempered at this point and we are seasoned professionals. And it really works wonderful together, so that is one of the big plus’ that the egos are out of the way. But as far as performances go, putting the rhythm section together with Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin is beyond a dream because you have got two guys that are incredibly stylistic who come together and play together and create this underbelly of explosion and drama. That to me is one of the highlights of Rated X because you have got to have that rock beneath you before you can lay vocals, guitars, keyboards, etc. on top and that makes a big difference I think, than any other band, that we have a killer rhythm section.
RM: Did you have any expectations going into this project, and if so has this album exceeded those expectations?
JLT: I think, actually yeah we tried to start out doing exactly what we have done, a bit retro with a modern sound. You know, a performance band and what I mean by that is that we have basically catchy tunes but at the same time these middle bits that we do inside the arrangement that everyone gets a chance to stretch out, whether it is drum, bass, guitars or vocals. And I think we have accomplished what we wanted to do originally, which was make this a high performance band with excellent song writing material. I really feel that we have done that and surprisingly so because in the recording stages when we were laying down tracks, we did not have many ideas that that it was going to come out the way it should. Until we actually had Pat Reagan mix it, who is absolutely brilliant and he created all the separations and the frequencies, we could actually hear through everything as you can hear now and see that we have accomplished that goal. So I am absolutely slain by it, I think it has come out terrific and I could not be prouder of everyone.
RM: I don’t know if this is just me, but I felt the album has a strong 1970s feel about it. Would you agree and if so, was the plan going into this to make it that way or was it just a natural progression?
JLT: Yeah, that was true we wanted it to be retro. We were looking back to bands like Led Zeppelin, you know, from that era and saying “Well, what did they do within the song context?” and if you go put on the first Led Zeppelin album or the second or whatever you will notice that they do exactly that. They have got a great song content and then they kind of go off in the middle and do something and then come back to the song and in that way a lot of the bands from the ‘70s were attempting that. Because live, you create that type of atmosphere, you know, you have got the song going and then Boom!, you just break it down and you just go into this really trippy kind of feel with all this music and you come right back out into the song. So yeah, we actually wanted it that way, so retro with a modern edge.
RM: I wanted to get your thoughts on a couple of songs from the album. Can I start with Lhasa, this 7 minute epic, to me at least, feels like a nice blend of Led Zeppelin meets Rainbow. What is your take on that song?
JLT: Yeah I would say Lhasa is our Kashmir. It is kind of like what Led Zeppelin did with Kashmir in our own way, you know, and I think there is a lot of theatre in that song. There is a spiritual message in that song, of course, and at the same time the music is just extremely heavy and profound and the middle section just kicks me away when you listen to it live and I think it is just going to blow people off their seats. But I would have to say this is what we were going for, you know, it is a centrepiece, a cornerstone song, holding up the building so to speak.
RM: I really enjoyed Fire & Ice, particularly the middle section of the song where there is this awesome trade-off between the keyboards and the drums. You rarely find stuff like that on most standard rock records, the format is usually verse/chorus/guitar solo. How did this brilliant piece of music come together?
JLT: This was the idea, not just to be usual, not to be like you said that abacab formula or what have you, you know, not to be the usual A-B-C-A-B-C, put in a bridge, back to the chorus and out. This is a performance band, these players are all amazing stylist individuals and we need to showcase them somehow so that I think is probably one of the most important aspects of the record that we let everybody stretch out and get a chance to actually play within the frame work of a song. And that is how that developed so we were really flying blind as we were doing it, it was not all scrolled out or anything and we just kind of played our way through the song until we got to the end and went “That’s It!”. And I might add that all of these tracks were done separately, no one was in the same room together at any one time which is a really amazing feat because it sounds like we are in the same room and we managed to keep that live feel to it. And I think, you know, Zeppelin did that but they were in the same room and the only way you can get this is from seasoned professionals coming together who know how to do that.
RM: You have tapped your friend Nikolo Kotzev from Brazen Abbot on the shoulder to contribute guitar on a couple of tracks, how did that come about and what was his response when you told him about the project?
JLT: Well first of all, the reason why Nikolo was called was because the guitarist Karl Cochran, who is a guitar star waiting to happen, this guy is amazing, suffered a stroke several tracks in. So after he came down with this stroke we were all absolutely mortified and we still are, he is a brother and when you have got one man down on a team the team usually stands up and plays harder. So that is what happened here there is a lot of blood, sweat and tears on this record. So when Karl went down of course we had to finish this record and there were a couple of other guys straggling around thinking that they could jump on this record, you know, to make a name for themselves but I said “No there is only one guy in my mind that is a virtuoso to do this” and that was Nikolo. And he was very kind in the sense that he listened to what we had done and he kind of fashioned the guitar sound after that and he understood what we wanted and he also put himself into it at the same time within the Rated X sound. And I think it came out brilliantly and his tracks just shine as well, so we really had the best of the best on this record.
RM: So can you give us an update on how Karl is doing at the moment?
JLT: Thank you for asking. He is really progressing really well we are doing benefits to help with his recovery and recuperation and his therapies, and that is offsetting his medical costs because they are absolutely huge as anyone knows today. So the stroke paralysed him on the right side so he is raising his arm to his shoulder, he is stretching out the right hand now, he is not walking with a cane anymore on the right leg so he is improving but it is a tough road. It is a long road but all of our prayers and thoughts and efforts are going in to this because it is such a tragic thing to happen to him. Now we do have if I can just mention this, we do have a website called “Rock N’ Recovery” and people can write to us, they can send money, they can do whatever they want, give all you can to help your brother out. This is not just going to be for Karl in the future this is going to be a foundation to help any and all musicians who suffer. So, you know, we are trying to do the best we can as a community of rockers.
RM: Well on behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock please wish him all the best for a speedy recovery.
JLT: Thank you so much for that. That really helps because he gets all these messages and it is very positive for him and it encourages him to keep going. Obviously it is a difficult thing and there is disappointment and discouraging times for him but this helps him, thank you.
RM: Moving on to a lighter note, your last solo outing was the 2007 album Second Hand Life. Are there any plans to record another solo effort?
JLT: You know, I actually used some material I had for a new solo record on this album. Once I saw how Rated X could develop and become a driving force in this much needed industry I really started to put all my efforts into Rated X. Will I want to do a solo album? Well, I think I should let this (Rated X) get off the ground first and then start to concentrate on it. Of course there is always writing, writing, writing and there is preparing for it but at the same time you can only juggle so many balls in the air at once. I think nowadays the problem with people is they have three or four projects going and they are hoping one of them sticks. I understand why they do that because this new paradigm has taken away the revenue from selling CDs, for sure so we have to go out live and play and if you play in three different projects you have got three chances to at least get some income. So it is pretty difficult like that but I think I am going to hold off for now and start thinking about it next year or the year after, I have got some other plans this year.
RM: In recent times you have been very vocal about Richie Blackmore and a Rainbow reunion. What was the catalyst that sparked this passionate call to arms?
JLT: Well, 2015 is the 40 year anniversary and I think that was the catalyst. It just hit me one day and I said “40 year anniversary” the band was huge, the band was iconic, Richie is iconic of course, and I felt that the fans, there are a lot of fans who grew up listening to Rainbow but never got the chance to see them. And I know many of them, you know, at a younger age of course, but still right on that cusp so to speak, and the older hardcore fans would come out but I am so passionate about it because Rainbow deserves something like this to honour all the ex-members of Rainbow. Honour Richie Blackmore first, all the ex-members of Rainbow and the fans deserve it, everywhere I go no matter where in the world people are asking for Rainbow. Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow and I am saying, “Well I don’t know, it doesn’t look like it, everybody is busy, nobodies thinking about it” but when this 40 year anniversary came up it hit me that this is the only time it can happen. This is the perfect time and the only time this is our chance, so hopefully I will be sitting down with Richie in a couple of weeks and we will try to figure something out. See how far we want to take it or not take it at all.
RM: We recently saw Gene Simmons come under fire for his “Rock Is Dead” statement. My take on it is that he was talking about the business side of making “Rock Stars” that is dead today, not so much the genre itself. With the lack of record sales, the increase of downloading and contracts being handed out to karaoke performers on American Idol or The X Factor I am not sure where the next “Rolling Stones” is going to come from. What are your thoughts as someone who has witnessed the industry change so much over the years?
JLT: Very good question Rock Man. I really happen to agree with your ‘karaoke’ statement. It is misleading for young people or anyone to think that they can get on a TV show and become an instant star without blood, sweat and tears, you know what I mean? I think it takes years of discipline, practise, effort and desire to really do this and they make it look like it is so damn easy and that is just not going to fly, not in this world not in the next. As far as rock being dead, let me address that really quickly, it may be sleepy but it is not dead. There are plenty of people who still want to see great music, that want to hear some of the old music come back because it was real. What you have today is a lot of one hit wonders and flash in the pan type artists that are not going to stand the test of time. And they are karaoke artists with their dance oriented numbers and that is all fine, that is an art form as well but so many people are coming out as ‘cookie cutter’ artists. It is beyond my imagination that this could happen, I am shocked, I am stunned about it, what Lady GaGa looks like Madonna looked like, Madonna looked like Miley Cyrus, Cyrus looks like Talyor Swift now, they are all following the same corporate manufactured sort of direction and it is almost getting stupid. Anyone who knows anything can see through all of this [laughs] and I am waiting for the man from behind the curtain to be exposed because it is all smoke and mirrors.
RM: So as someone who has spent many years working in clubs and bars perfecting your craft, when you see these people appear on these types of shows who look like they decided that morning that they wanted to be a singing star, is it insulting?
JLT: Oh, it is extremely insulting to us all. I used to get a bit angry about it but then I realised that it is a laugh, it is just stupid. How can anyone take it seriously? I mean, if you take your Justin Beiber’s of the world, I mean this kid use to be able to sing, now he is just a clown. I mean it is not like he did not have some talent or (Lady) GaGa does not have any talent, of course there is talent there, but the way they are bringing this across, perhaps I am using two artists that are not exactly like this, but there are so many other people who are out there. This Miley Cyrus is killing me. I mean, naked on a wrecking ball? I can remember when we got banned from MTV because we were standing in a graveyard during the “Death Alley Driver” video. This is true, Rainbow got banned because we were standing in a graveyard and now you have pretty much soft porn on your MTV. It is incredible how degrading everything has become and not only how they are presenting themselves in a degrading way but at the same time it is not even music anymore, it is just fashion, fad and a sound and if Max Martin writes another song for, he writes for everybody it is the same guy writing the same “cookie cutter” music for the same “cookie cutter” artist. And when one goes another one fills its place and it is exactly the same.
RM: I remember back in the mid 1980s the fury that was coming out of the Tipper Gore founded organization the PMRC over certain music videos, album covers and lyrics. I often wonder what they would make of today’s musical landscape.
JLT: Well the PMRC, my God. Look at the rap lyrics now, I mean they are using the “C” word, the “B” word they are using the “F” word they are using everything. And nobody has even poked their head through and said anything about anything anymore, so I think that was a complete display of crap what Tipper Gore was trying to do in those days. I mean, it was all political and promotional gathering for herself and for Al Gore and things like that. I mean, look at it now you can see through it all and it made not one bit of difference, if anything it made Twisted Sister bigger, you know, for example, these guys are from my neck of the woods I have known them all my life. And what it really did was make kids want to go out and hear the filthier words and dirtier music because their Mom and Dad did not want them to listen to it. So, of course there is always going to be that rebellion right? So they actually made it easier I think, they turned the wrong key because look at it now it has just gone completely downhill. I am actually embarrassed buy some of the things I am looking at today, I just go “How could you let that go by as music?”, “How could you promote that to your young children?”
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the self titled Rated X album. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you all the best for the album and yourself for the future.
JLT: Thank you so much Rock Man.
To help Karl Cochran please visit the official website at www.rocknrecovery.net
For more information about Rated X visit the band on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RatedXRocks
Rated X – Rated X is available on Frontiers Records